Hamas leader says deal to release some hostages could come soon

The leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, suggests that a truce agreement with Israel could be close, which would involve a halt in Israeli strikes and the release of some hostages, amid ongoing conflict.

State of play: Hamas has ‘delivered its response’ to mediators in Qatar, indicating the possibility of a truce with Israel, following a large cross-border attack six weeks ago by Gaza-based Hamas fighters, which resulted in significant casualties and hostage-taking.
* The details of the deal are yet to be officially released but both Arab and Israeli media speculate it would include a pause in Israel’s strikes in Gaza and the release of dozens of Palestinian prisoners by Hamas.
* A senior Israeli government official quoted by Channel 12 said, ~~”We are very close to a deal”~~ for the release of at least 50 hostages, but there are still technical issues to be resolved.

Public response: Support for a deal in Israel has grown, fueled in part by large public demonstrations calling for the release of hostages.
* This puts additional pressure on Netanyahu’s government to secure the release of the hostages.
* The International Committee of Red Cross has also called for the “immediate release of hostages,” although noting it does not participate in negotiations leading to the release of hostages.

Ongoing conflict: Fighting continues around a hospital in northern Gaza which was recently shelled, causing casualties.
* Israel insists hospitals in Gaza are being used by Hamas as covert command posts, eliciting international criticism.
* Occupancy at Gaza hospitals has reached 190% according to Gaza’s health ministry, with many wounded and displaced residents stranded.

Humanitarian crisis: The United Nations and the World Food Program have raised concerns about the possibility of widespread starvation in Gaza due to the conflict.
* Gaza’s 2.2 million residents are in dire need of food assistance with the World Food Program stating, “Existing food systems are collapsing.”
* WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain noted the urgent need for safe passage for humanitarian access to deliver life-saving food to Gaza.
View original article on NPR
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